EXCESS HOLLYWOOD: MOVIE GEEK FAUX PAS

People make movie references in real life. That’s just one of the ways our culture is bound together. This was demonstrated when Arnold “I’m blowing up boxes” Schwarzenegger was running for office in Cowleefournyah. Every journalist in the country was using quotes from his movies and giving him little nicknames with cinematic significance. The same happened with Clint Eastwood.

It’s natural, and people like doing it — like having sex and paying taxes. Movie geeks, however, are a bit different.

Being a movie geek, I know that I enjoy making obscure film references around my equally geeky friends to see if they can guess the movie. I know I did well if I can either stump them or get them to say, “Holy crap! That’s from ‘The Corpse Grinders,’ man.” It’s win-win either way.

The worst movie geeks make obscure references to the general public. They’ll use some bizarre “Star Trek” quote when ordering pizza and then sneer at the woman behind the counter when she doesn’t get it. The worst offenders’ biggest sin is that they don’t seem to understand that not everyone spends every waking hour watching movies. They enjoy doing other things — like having sex and paying taxes.

When I’m not dealing with other movie geeks, I try to keep my references only slightly obscure. I like to make them clever, but I want to make sure the person on the receiving end gets it. This has backfired on me on three very humorous occasions, two of which, oddly enough, involved UPS drivers.

The first time I was surprised by a person not getting what I thought was a perfectly clear reference was when I worked at an elastics factory. Every day this really short UPS driver would deliver samples and pick up small orders. One day I had to sign for some packages, and I noticed that he was out of breath and sweating up a storm.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“I’m in a big, big rush,” he told me. I was tempted to say, “Why? Are you and your friends putting on a show with Chevy Chase?” I knew he wouldn’t get the “Under the Rainbow” reference, though, so I went with a “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory” one instead.

“Is Mr. Wonka riding your ass?”

“What the hell are you talking about?” he asked. Okay, I felt like an idiot. I wasn’t going to tell him that I was calling him an oompa loompa because he was just over five feet tall. Instead, I said something like, “You know, because of the gold ticket.” He didn’t ask for any explanation. (Technically, he should have said something. This was the second time I had busted on him for his height. Later on I really pushed things and asked if his wife was also a “midget.” “If so,” I told him, “I’d really like to film you two having sex.” We had a new delivery guy within a week.)

I thought everybody knew the story of Charlie and Wonka, but I guess I was wrong. I vowed to make my references a little less obscure in the future. Flash forward about a decade.

I was working at a comic book store and a fairly young UPS driver delivered a package that looked just about the right size to hold a human head. How I know this is beyond me, but I do know what size box you would need to comfortably hold a human head.

“I think I know what’s in here,” I told him.

“What?” he asked, arching his eyebrows. “Some good surprise?”

“Gwyneth Paltrow’s head.”

The other customers in the store got the joke. They laughed. The UPS driver didn’t.

“Why do you say that? That’s just mean. Do you hate her or something?” he asked.

“No,” I replied, a bit surprised. “Her head … in a box. Didn’t you see ‘Se7en’?”

He just looked at me strangely and left the store.

I felt like a real ass after that one.

I made another vow at that point. Any movie reference I’d make to the general public would have to be even less clever and more mainstream than what I had previously done, and I wouldn’t even try to use them in an original way. It would kill me, but it had to be done.

So there I was, sitting in a casino and playing the I Dream of Genie slot machine. The machine was being very good to me. Very good. I’m hitting all the subgames, and I’m raking in the dough. After one subgame, where I got something like two hundred and forty-six credits because I picked the right bottles, the older lady sitting to my left looks up at me with her big eyes and says, “How do you do that?”

“I used The Force,” I told her.

You would think The Force would be something everyone understands. Even people who never saw “Star Wars” know about The Force. It’s The Force! It’s referenced like every damn day. I, unfortunately, was seated next to the one woman in America who had no idea what the hell I was talking about.

“The Force?” she asked. “What is that?”

Okay, I admit I was shocked by her question. I wasn’t going to let this opportunity slide, though. If she didnâ’t get it, I could really have some fun.

“The Force,” I explained in my best academic voice, “is present in just about every living thing. It used to be thought of as something spiritual in nature, but recent science has shown that it comes from midi-chlorians that reside in all organisms. Now, The Force is stronger in some people than in others, and it can be used to do things like predict the future, move objects without touching them, get people to say things they don’t mean, or even control the outcome of events. The Force doesn’t work on all races, though. Toydarians, for example, are immune to mind tricks. All you have to do is concentrate on the machine and let The Force guide your fingers when you have to pick genie bottles. It’s very simple.”

The lady just looked at me for a few seconds.

“The Force,” I repeated.

“I … well, I … I did not know that.” She must have realized that I was playing with her, but I had said it with such a straight face that she couldn’t be sure. I like to think that she actually remembered The Force at some point in the back of her mind and thought, “Well, this is starting to come back to me. I think I heard about it on CNN, so it must be true.”

“Yep,” I told her. “I use The Force.” And then I turned back to my machine and threw out all my vows about making my movie geek references more mainstream. It’s just too much fun to screw with people. Plus, I can now quote dialogue from “Shane’s World Volume Seven: Snow Job!” and not feel like I’m breaking some promise I made to myself. Geeks unite!

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Posted on March 8, 2004 in Features by

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